Family and friends leave their troubles behind at this Tiki Island outdoor haven
At the center of a lush garden by the water, a large outdoor kitchen supports the nature-loving lifestyle of Charlie and Nikki Pattillo at their Tiki Island home.
Maddy, the Pattillos’ 16-year-old daughter, wakes up most Saturday mornings and heads downstairs then outside where her father is making breakfast. The bacon sizzles in harmony with the sound of a large fountain by the pool. Eggs and pancakes cook on a flat-top grill as sea breezes sway fronds in the palm trees.
“We eat outside four nights a week and all weekend long,” Nikki said.
They often grill the fish they caught that day from their boat or on their pier. Red fish, red snapper and trout go straight from the boat to the outdoor kitchen.
Their large, fully functional kitchen includes an egg grill and a Salamander grill, as well as the flat top and two burners. A small refrigerator fits under the counter and a larger backup refrigerator is just inside. A broad farmhouse sink sits deep in the counter.
“I didn’t want one of those dinky little sinks,” Nikki said.
The peace and calm of their backyard balances their hard work away from it. Charlie is an oil and gas pipeline well consultant and Nikki is a published author with Ozark Mountain Publishing. Her books include “A Spiritual Evolution” and “A Day in Spirit: A Spiritual Calendar for Teens.”
The Pattillos planned their outdoor kitchen after Hurricane Ike, which struck in 2008. Family and friends were staying at their home at the time, and cooking and entertaining outside made the most sense.
“We were always hauling stuff upstairs and downstairs,” Nikki said.
They took their ideas of what they wanted a dream outdoor kitchen to include and went to a contractor who chalked out an outline of what could be possible. By 2009, they were cooking in the new space and hanging out around the massive kitchen island, snacking on fruit as fish or chicken or steak cooked on the grill.
The Pattillos built their home on Tiki Island 16 years ago, and the outdoor kitchen is an extension of the reasons they wanted to live there. The biggest reason involves Maddy, they said.
“I wanted my kid outside,” Nikki said. “It’s uncomplicated out here. I wanted that for my daughter.”
Maddy paddleboards down the canal. She has her meals alfresco with her best friends. The Ball High School senior is completing her capstone project for the Girl Scout Gold Award with a website about hurricane preparedness, galvestonprepares.com. Her challenge is keeping the website updated, reliable and working long after she goes to college, Maddy said.
“It has to be sustainable,” she said.
Spending so much time outside has made COVID-19 restrictions a pleasant experience for the family and neighbors, Nikki said. Many days, they stayed under the cool palapa reading books and streaming Netflix. Hibiscus bushes provided privacy from the street.
“This is my pocket of peace,” Nikki said.
She also gardens, tending to cucumbers, lettuce, spinach, parsley and cantaloupe that later wind up in salads to accompany the grilled meat of the day. She picks peppers to make her own private hot sauce. She cares for the trees growing lemons, oranges and limes. One lime tree near the outdoor kitchen produces up to 800 limes a year.
Maddy often makes artistic fruit trays with cantaloupe, watermelon and strawberries.
“To break up the red, I’ll add yogurt-covered raisins,” she said. “I’ll put grapes around the edges.”
Inside and upstairs, Maddy bakes in the home’s traditional French kitchen. Her specialty is carrot cake. It all goes downstairs to add to the family meal.
“I want people to be gathered there,” Maddy said.
Neighbors often join them for dinner. Family members come and visit and spend much of their time in the outdoor refuge. And they all also come back again and again, the Pattillos said.
“The grilling or cooking could be good or it could be bad, it really doesn’t matter when you are surrounded by a peaceful environment and laughter,” Charlie said. “People come to enjoy our outdoors, relax and forget about the troubles happening on our Earth right now. It’s a joy for us to sit outside, grill and share all this with our family and friends. That is our blessing to share.”
Thai Turkey Burgers with Crunchy Asian Slaw
1 pound ground turkey
3 tablespoons shallot, very finely diced
1½ teaspoons ginger, fresh grated or chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
2 teaspoons lemongrass, finely chopped
1-2 tablespoons basil, chopped
1 teaspoon lime zest
1 scallion, chopped
½ jalapeño, seeded and finely chopped (or substitute 1 tablespoon sriracha sauce or red chili sauce)
1 tablespoon fish sauce (don’t leave this out)
1 teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 cup grated carrots
1 cup shredded purple cabbage
1 scallion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons lime juice (or rice wine vinegar)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon salt and pepper
1⁄4 cup mayonnaise or tartar sauce
1-2 tablespoons srirachaor chili garlic sauce
Optional additions: Cucumber ribbons, pickled red onions, pickled radishes, spicy greens like watercress, sprouts, avocado
Preheat grill to medium-high.
Combine all the burger ingredients in a medium bowl and mix well using hands. With wet hands, shape into 3 burgers, 1-inch thick. Place on a plate in the fridge.
Toss the slaw ingredients together in a medium bowl.
Mix the spicy aioli ingredients together in a small bowl.
Grill patties on a well-greased, pre-heated grill 4-5 minutes each side until golden and cooked through.
Toast or grill the buns.
Spread aioli on the bottom bun, top with the patty, then the slaw, cucumber ribbons (optional), more aioli, then the top bun.
– Recipe courtesy of Sylvia Fountaine, Feasting at Home blog
Summer Blueberry Crumble
6 cups fresh blueberries, rinsed and well-drained
2 tablespoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1 teaspoon lemon zest
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1⁄4 cup granulated sugar
1⁄2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
(You can cheat here and use 2 large cans of blueberry pie filling with 2 cups of fresh blueberries and not add anything else)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1⁄4 cup granulated sugar
1⁄3 cup brown sugar (packed)
1⁄8 teaspoon or a generous pinch of salt
1⁄2 cup (1 stick) cold, unsalted butter, diced
1 cup quick-cooking oats
1 cup sliced almonds (optional)
Toss blueberries with 2 tablespoons lemon juice and 1 teaspoon lemon zest and set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk together 1⁄4 cup sugar, 3 tablespoons flour and 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon and toss with the blueberries just until evenly coated. Pour into a 9-inch-by-13–inch baking dish.
In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, combine 1 cup flour, 1⁄4 cup granulated sugar, 1⁄3 cup brown sugar and 1⁄8 teaspoon of salt. Pulse several times to combine. Add the diced cold butter and pulse until the butter is the size of peas.
Transfer the mixture to a bowl, add 1⁄2 cup oatmeal and use your hands to make large crumbles. Add ½ cup of the sliced almonds and mix to combine.
Spread the topping over the fruit and cover evenly, then sprinkle ½ cup of almonds over the top. Bake 40 minutes at 350 F. The blueberries should be bubbling at the edges and the topping and almonds should be golden brown.
Here’s the hard part: let the crumble sit for at least 15 minutes before serving (it will thicken slightly as it cools). This will stay warm for a couple hours. It reheats beautifully the next day.
Add vanilla ice cream or fresh-made whipped topping.